Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward redraft leagues but can also be used for setting DFS lineups, as these are the players I’ll likely have exposure to on Sunday.
Start of the Week: Brian Hoyer vs. Jaguars: Statistically, Hoyer has been about as good as any other quarterback in the league since he took over for an injured Jay Cutler (thumb) midway through Week 2. Among quarterbacks with at least three starts, his 108.8 passer rating is fourth-best behind only Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, and Philip Rivers. Hoyer is averaging a whopping 42.6 pass attempts per game and has accounted for all six of the Bears’ touchdowns since Week 3. Hoyer’s 71.4 percent completion rate is No. 1 in the league, and his 7.9 YPA is top-10. Hoyer is playing the best football of his career at the moment. We know regression is coming, and it’s scary to keep betting on Hoyer to produce. But the passing volume is there for a safe floor, and the Bears are 2.5-point home favorites. Additionally, the Bears, who already play at a decent pace (12th), will be up in pace against a Jaguars team that is currently third in pace. With only one game with an over-under above 48 points, Jaguars-Bears (47.5) sports the second-highest total of Week 6. The Jaguars grade out well in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA metrics at No. 7, but it doesn’t match up with them allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, and Rivers have all posted top-10 fantasy finishes against this defense already this season, and Joe Flacco completed 21 consecutive passes against Jacksonville in his start. Chicago’s remade offensive line has also come together. It’s 10th in adjusted sack rate allowed, and Hoyer has only taken three sacks. He should have plenty of clean pockets. Hoyer is a legitimate QB1. Still one of the cheapest starting quarterbacks on FanDuel at $7,000, Hoyer is in play in daily leagues.
Alex Smith at Raiders: A large contingent of the fantasy community seems to be pretty bullish on Smith in Oakland. Personally, Smith doesn’t quite jump off the page as a must start, but there’s no denying the spot is high-quality. Smith has produced QB3, QB32, QB18, and QB12 fantasy finishes in his four starts. That’s despite averaging a mammoth 42 passing attempts per game solely because the Chiefs were getting blown out in those QB3 and QB12 efforts against the Chargers and Steelers. The Raiders are 29th in pass-defense DVOA at Football Outsiders and have surrendered the most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including top-six finishes to Drew Brees (QB2), Matt Ryan (QB2), Joe Flacco (QB6), and Philip Rivers (QB4). Marcus Mariota sandwiched in the QB30 finish against the Raiders in Week 3. Smith is obviously closest to Mariota fantasy-wise, but there’s no question Smith has had the Raiders’ number in recent meetings. In his past five starts against Oakland, Smith has averaged 227.2 pass yards per game with a 13:2 TD:INT ratio. He threw multiple touchdowns in all five outings and rushed for 84 yards and an additional score in his two 2015 starts. With a 47-point over-under and one-point spread, Chiefs-Raiders has shootout potential. The two teams combined to score 94 points in their two meetings last year. Smith is extremely cheap on daily fantasy sites and provides a decent floor to fall back on in part to his rushing ability.
Carson Palmer vs. Jets: Palmer missed last week’s Thursday night game against the 49ers after suffering a concussion against the Rams in Week 4. He said had the game been on Sunday and not Thursday, he would have been able to play. Coach Bruce Arians has already confirmed Palmer will start Monday night against the Jets. Closing in on his 37th birthday, Palmer has looked like a shell of his early-2015 self for the better part of the past nine games or so dating back to last season. But a home date with the overmatched Jets has the look of a slump-buster for Palmer. Over the last three weeks, Gang Green is allowing 308.7 passing yards per game and eight touchdowns to zero interceptions. Only the Browns and Falcons have yielded more fantasy points to quarterbacks since Week 2. The Jets field a true pass-funnel defense. They’re 32nd in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA but No. 3 against the run. New York has been thrashed in the vertical passing game, and that meshes with how the Cardinals attack through the air. Vertical passing is Arizona’s calling card. The Cardinals’ 27.25 implied team total is one of the highest on the board.
Marcus Mariota vs. Browns: After a dreadful Weeks 3 and 4, Mariota had a breakout game last week in a road win over the Dolphins. He only threw for 163 yards, but Mariota rushed for a season-high 60 yards and a score while tossing three additional touchdowns. He was Week 5’s top overall performer. This isn’t a points-chasing spot. The Browns’ defense is facing the fourth-most plays per game, and Tennessee is the most up-pace team of the week. The Titans are 29th in pace, while the Browns are eighth. Volume is legitimately the only concern here for Mariota. The Titans run the ball 47.28 percent of the time, the sixth-highest mark in the league. Their 209.4 passing yards per game is 28th. On the flip side, Cleveland is 28th in pass-defense DVOA and has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. The Browns are surrendering over 402 total yards of offense per game and have allowed at least 15 fantasy points to each quarterback they’ve faced to this point. Couple those dreadful numbers with the Titans being way up in tempo, and there’s a safe floor here for Mariota, even if there’s a good chance DeMarco Murray finishes as the Titans’ top scorer.
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Eli Manning vs. Ravens: I mentioned on Twitter last Sunday night how Manning’s Week 5 performance against the Packers may have been the single-worst quarterback outing these eyes have seen so far this season. (I didn’t watch Ryan Fitzpatrick’s six-interception game against the Chiefs.) The Giants aren’t scoring touchdowns, which means Manning hasn’t been throwing them. He’s tossed just two touchdowns over the past four games. The yards (1,178) have been there over that span, but the G-Men have been failing time and again in the red zone. Their 46.67 conversion rate inside the 20-yard line is 27th in the league. It’ll be good for Manning to come back home, but the Ravens present a stiff test. They’re allowing just 190.8 passing yards per game, and only the Vikings (6.0) are giving up fewer yards per pass attempt than Baltimore’s 6.1 mark. The Ravens have allowed just one top-12 quarterback finish, Derek Carr as QB5 in Week 4.
Dak Prescott at Packers: Fantasy’s QB12 in points per game through five weeks, Prescott has been impressive with his ability to manage the game and not turn the ball over. He’s kept his fantasy stats afloat with three rushing touchdowns despite throwing just four total scores. On Sunday, Prescott will probably have to make plays with his arm if he’s going to secure a top-12 finish. The Packers have allowed the fewest rushing yards to both quarterbacks and running backs. And on the road, the Cowboys figure to try and play ball-control offense by sticking The Duke in Ezekiel Elliott’s belly to keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. This game also figures to be on the slower side of things with both teams bottom-10 in pace. Prescott is unlikely to have Dez Bryant (knee) at his disposal. Early indications are Dallas will hold him out through the Week 7 bye to play it safe. It remains to be seen if Prescott will keep the starting job after this week with Tony Romo (back) now healthy.
Kirk Cousins vs. Eagles: To this point, Cousins hasn’t been able to capture that magic he had last season. He’s thrown zero or one touchdown(s) in 3-of-5 games and tossed at least one interception in 4-of-5. Cousins has missed a ton of throws, including a pair of would-be long gains to Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson last week against the Ravens. Wind played a factor in that one, but missed opportunities has been the story for Cousins all year. Sunday doesn’t look like a spot to buck the trend. The Redskins are running the fifth-fewest offensive plays per game, and the Eagles’ defense is facing the fewest plays per week. Philadelphia plays at the slowest pace in the league, keeping its defense off the field. Only the Seahawks and Texans have allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford’s three touchdowns last week were the first three the Eagles had given up through the air this season. They still managed to hold Stafford to 180 yards. Washington is dead last in red-zone success rate, scoring a touchdown only 35 percent of the time. There’s a reason K Dustin Hopkins leads the league in field goals. To make matters even worse for Cousins, Reed didn’t practice Wednesday after experiencing concussion-like symptoms on Tuesday. Reed has a worrisome concussion history. He suffered five known ones from 2011-2015. Reed is Cousins’ top red-zone target and security blanket. Losing him would deal a massive blow to this passing game. Reed missed Weeks 5 and 6 last season with a concussion. In those two games, Cousins had passer ratings of 69.7 and 57.9. He averaged 207.5 yards per game with a 2:4 TD:INT ratio. If Reed is out, stick a fork in Cousins this week. He’d barely be an option in two-QB leagues.
Start of the Week: Lamar Miller vs. Colts: Drafted as an RB1 over the summer and hyped as a dark horse to finish as fantasy’s top running back, Miller has been a major disappointment in his new digs. He’s managed finishes of RB19, RB18, RB20, RB20, and RB46. Miller has topped 100 total yards in 3-of-5 games, but he’s yet to visit the end zone. He also isn’t breaking any long runs. Among 21 running backs who have handled at least 50 percent of his team’s rushing attempts, Miller’s 4.0 percent “breakaway” rate — which constitutes the percentage of yards that come on runs of 15-plus yards — is dead last. His longest run has gone for just 15 yards. The Texans’ futility in the red zone also isn’t helping Miller’s cause. Houston’s 36.36 percent success rate in the red zone is 31st, only better than the Redskins. Aside from the zero touchdowns and lack of big plays, everything else looks good for Miller. According to Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar’s Week 6 Worksheet, Miller is handling 47 percent of the Texans’ offensive touches, which is good for the second-highest share among all running backs. And the matchup against the Colts couldn’t be much better. Not only will this be a tilt between the Nos. 9 (HOU) and 10 (IND) fastest-paced teams, the Colts are 31st in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA and have yielded the third-most fantasy points to running backs. Opposing backs are averaging 4.63 YPC and a 6-63.8-0.6 receiving line versus Indianapolis. This has slump-buster written all over it for Miller. Jordan Howard piled up 163 total yards and score against the Colts in Week 5, and T.J. Yeldon got them for 117 total yards the previous week.
Jamaal Charles at Raiders: Charles played only 10 snaps in his Week 4 season debut against the Steelers. It was an opportunity for him to knock the rust off before the bye week. Now practicing in full this week for the first time this season, Charles said he feels “110 percent” healthy. “There's no hiding anymore," Charles said on Wednesday. “I’m ready. I told them to (take) the training wheels off me. I want to ride now. Take them off and let me ride." Coach Andy Reid responded, “As long as there are no setbacks, he’ll probably do a little bit more.” All signs point to Charles being more involved this week. The Raiders have shown minimal ability to stop the run. They’re 21st in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA and 25th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, yielding 4.90 YPC. The Chiefs have been careful with Charles to this point, but after the bye week has always been a realistic goal for them to unleash the 29-year-old. Spencer Ware has lost a fumble in three-straight games. He’ll still be involved, but Charles figures to be the 1A to Ware’s 1B. When not getting blown out, like they have been in multiple games this season, the Chiefs are one of the more run-heavy teams in the league. Last season, Kansas City ran the ball 47.96 percent of the time, good for the sixth-highest clip. On the road in a tough environment in their own division, it would be smart for the Chiefs to try and control the clock to keep a red-hot Derek Carr off the field and the crowd out of the game. Charles’ role was already being scaled back some last season before he got hurt. In his four healthy games, he averaged 20.75 touches per game. Somewhere in the 15-18 range would be realistic come Sunday, and there’s obvious upside for more if he’s clicking.
LeGarrette Blount vs. Bengals: Blount let us down last week in a prime spot at the Browns. He was able to punch one goal-line score into the end zone, but Blount was stuffed on three other attempts inside the five-yard line. His snap rate was also dialed back a considerable amount in Tom Brady’s first game back, going from a 62.5-percent player Weeks 1-4 to 38 percent in Week 5. Blount was still able to manage 18 touches. James White curiously was in the game late in the second half with the Patriots nursing a multi-touchdown lead. It may have just been the Patriots wanting to blow a team out in an effort to “stick it to the league” for suspending Brady. Coming back home as 9.5-point favorites, this looks like another great spot to ride Blount. The Bengals just got eviscerated on the ground by Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas last week to the tune of 134 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Matt Forte went for 96 yards against Cincinnati in Week 1, and DeAngelo Williams followed it up with 94 the following week. Granted, stud WLB Vontaze Burfict wasn’t in the lineup Weeks 1-3, but that doesn’t give them an out for last week’s debacle against Elliott. On the year, the Bengals are allowing 4.58 YPC to running backs. In three home games the Patriots won by at least 9.5 points last season, Blount averaged a rushing line of 21.3-93-1.3. Few running backs have the touchdown upside of Blount. He’s a lock-and-load must-start despite back-to-back subpar games.
Frank Gore at Texans: At 33 years old, Gore does nothing to stand out anymore, but he’s faded to the background while remaining a consistent source of volume. He’s yet to have a 100-yard game since signing with the Colts. Gore, however, is averaging 19.2 touches per game in 2016 and has scored in 3-of-5 games. He now gets a Texans defense that lost All-Pro LE J.J. Watt to season-ending back surgery and just gave up the RB9 finish to Matt Asiata of all people last week. Asiata isn’t the only running back to have a big game against this Texans run defense that checks in at No. 26 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. DeMarco Murray produced the RB1 finish against Houston in Week 4, and LeGarrette Blount the RB7 the week before. Jeremy Langford (RB18) and Spencer Ware (RB21) managed respectable days in Weeks 1 and 2. Gore is a safe-floor, low-ceiling RB2, especially with the Texans locking up opposing passing games at a league-best 181.0 yards per game.
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Matt Jones vs. Eagles: Jones has only been able to feast on the weakest of the weak. His two career 100-yard rushing games came against the Rams (Week 2, 2015) and Browns (Week 4, 2016). Take away those 240 yards, Jones has managed just 549 yards and two touchdowns on 176 carries (3.12 YPC) across 16 games. Coach Jay Gruden is now threatening to take some of Jones’ carries away and give them to UDFA Rob Kelley. With this backfield clear as mud and the Eagles’ elite run defense coming to town, Jones is a high-risk play with a basement-level floor. Philadelphia is No. 7 in run-defense DVOA and has faced the fewest rushing attempts at just 14.5 per game. The entire Redskins offense is in trouble Sunday, making the Eagles D/ST an attractive streamer.
Duke Johnson at Titans: Last week’s game script figured to be a perfect time for Johnson to play his heaviest snaps of the year. In a game the Browns trailed by 16-plus points for the entire second, third, and fourth quarters, Johnson could have been used in catch-up mode. The complete opposite happened, as Johnson played his second-lowest snap percentage (44.4) of the season. After seeing a combined 29 touches Weeks 3 and 4, Johnson touched the ball just six times against the Patriots. It’s become increasingly difficult to predict Johnson’s bigger games. Coach Hue Jackson has shown a willingness to keep riding Isaiah Crowell, even in bad game scripts. Even if Johnson were to get on the field more this week against Tennessee, this doesn’t set up well for the pass-game specialist. Only the Texans (12) and Seahawks (16) have allowed fewer catches to running backs out of the backfield than the Titans (17). And the Titans have played five games to Seattle’s four. On the road, and the Browns sending out an injured Cody Kessler (ribs, chest) at quarterback, this offense could go completely off the rails. Johnson already has minimal touchdown upside.
Jeremy Hill at Patriots: Hill played just 15 snaps last week against the Cowboys, turning them into four carries for 12 yards. He entered the game with a chest injury and appeared to aggravate it at one point, leaving the game with his arm dangling at his side. But Hill insisted afterward that he was fine. He practiced on Wednesday and appears on track to play against New England. The bad news is Hill plain-and-simple hasn’t been effective outside of a 50-yard run against the Broncos in Week 3. Averaging 3.76 YPC with that run in his pocket, if we take it away, Hill is averaging a pitiful 3.0 YPC on his other 61 totes. He’s been unable to find his rookie-year form the past 1.5 seasons. The Patriots are No. 8 in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA and allow 3.61 YPC and the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Giovani Bernard has outplayed Hill all season.
Start of the Week: Jeremy Maclin at Raiders: Maclin has yet to really get going this season. He hasn’t topped 78 yards in a game and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Maclin has also dropped an uncharacteristic four passes through four games. Week 6 presents a get-right spot. The Raiders have allowed the most yards and fantasy points to wide receivers. According to Pro Football Focus’ charts, Maclin runs roughly 69 percent of his routes at either right cornerbacks (27%) or slot corners (44%), so he should avoid LCB David Amerson most of the afternoon. Even after getting torched by Chargers WRs Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin for a combined 4-148-1 line last week, Amerson remains PFF’s No. 1 cover corner out of 117 qualifiers. If Maclin would happen to run more routes against Amerson, it wouldn’t be enough to get scared off him. Raiders RCB Sean Smith — and former teammate of Maclin in Kansas City — has allowed a cornerback-high 403 yards in his coverage already, including three touchdowns. Slot CB D.J. Hayden was recently worked by the Titans’ Tajae Sharpe, Harry Douglas, and Jace Amaro in Week 3. Maclin will easily be the best receiver Hayden has seen yet this year. In two games against Oakland in 2015, Maclin turned 14 targets into 12 catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns. He’s seen no fewer than seven targets in a game this season. Maclin provides safety and upside.
John Brown vs. Jets: Brown got off to a slow start after battling a summer concussion. His snap percentage has steadily risen from Week 1 on (57.4% > 42.4% > 56.6% > 90.9% > 92.6%) and Brown has supplanted Michael Floyd as an every-down player next to Larry Fitzgerald. In Carson Palmer’s previous two starts, Brown has led the Cardinals with 25 targets, turning them into a 16-214-0 line. Box-score lookers probably soured on Brown after his Week 5 that saw him catch just 1-of-4 targets for 11 yards, but Drew Stanton was the quarterback and threw for only 124 yards. The key number was Brown played his highest snap rate of the season. He now gets a Jets defense that has been getting killed by the deep ball. Darrelle Revis (hamstring) has been a shell of himself, getting roasted by A.J. Green and Marquise Goodwin in Weeks 1 and 2. He didn’t play last week and remained out of practice Wednesday. Fill-in starter Marcus Williams got worked by Sammie Coates in Week 5 to the tune of 6-127-1, including a 72-yard touchdown bomb to Sammie Coates. Receivers are running right by these cornerbacks. Brown (4.34 forty) is one of the league’s top deep threats. Carson Palmer should look his way more than once on over-the-top shots. Only the Raiders have allowed more yards and fantasy points than the Jets to opposing wide receivers.
Cameron Meredith vs. Jaguars: Following the loss of Kevin White (ankle) to season-ending I.R., second-year UDFA Meredith made his first career start at receiver last week against the Colts. He was immediately tossed in as the Bears’ feature receiver, leading the team with 12 targets. Meredith produced a 9-130-1 line on the dozen looks and scored a 14-yard touchdown. At 6’3/207, he should remain a factor in the red zone. Since Brian Hoyer took over at quarterback, he’s favored throwing to the receiver lined up on the right side of the formation. Before Meredith, that was White. In the three games Hoyer has been under center, White and Meredith have combined for 38 targets. The Jaguars have benched LCB Davon House and will start stud rookie Jalen Ramsey and veteran Prince Amukamara on the outside with Aaron Colvin coming off suspension to man the slot. On paper, it’s a tough spot for Meredith, but the Bears are at home, and Jacksonville’s weakness through four games has been its pass defense. Only four teams are allowing more fantasy points to receivers. With Hoyer averaging 42.6 pass attempts per game and completing a league-high 71.4 percent of his passes, the volume should be there for Meredith to have a nice floor.
Jordan Matthews at Redskins: After a hot start to the season that saw Matthews post a 13-185-1 line on 21 targets Weeks 1 and 2, the slot man’s play has tailed off the next two games. Against the Steelers and Lions, Matthews saw a total of seven targets, catching six for just 84 yards and a score. It’s definitely enough reason to pause, but this sets up as a potential bounce-back spot for Matthews. Still running the bulk of his routes out of the slot, Matthews should avoid Josh Norman much of the afternoon. Norman will likely trail Matthews any time he’s outside, but Norman has never been one to travel into the slot. If the Eagles were smart, which they seem to be, they’ll let Matthews play inside more than normal and let Nelson Agholor and/or Dorial Green-Beckham go to waste in Norman’s coverage. The way to beat the Redskins is through the middle of their defense. Third-round rookie Kendall Fuller is the sixth corner Washington has used this season due to injury, and he just underwent microfracture surgery last year. He played well last week against Baltimore, but that was after Steve Smith Sr. left the game with an injury. Previous slot WRs Eli Rogers (6-59-1), Cole Beasley (5-75), and Sterling Shepard (5-73-1) have had successful days against the Redskins. Matthews is bigger, faster, and a more prominent part of his team’s offense than those three.
Jeremy Kerley at Bills: Kerley has been a pleasant surprise for the 49ers, and he’s dominated the pass-game looks after five weeks. He’s been targeted on 28.1 percent of his routes, the third-highest rate in the league. But with the quarterback switch from Blaine Gabbert to Colin Kaepernick, Kerley might be the biggest loser. Gabbert’s short-game preferences really played well into Kerley’s strengths out of the slot. He runs a ton of short routes, as evidenced by his 9.6 yards aDOT (Average Depth of Target). Among 37 qualified quarterbacks last season, Kaepernick was 35th in accuracy percentage at Pro Football Focus and particularly bad on passes 10 yards and shorter. Kaepernick’s insertion into the lineup might bode better for Torrey Smith on the outside and the tight ends up the seams. On top of Kaepernick’s accuracy issues, Kerley will also have to contend with Bills slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman on Sunday. Robey-Coleman is the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week and PFF’s No. 8 cover corner out of 117 qualifiers. He’s allowed just six catches for 75 yards on 15 targets, while picking off two passes. Quarterbacks have a 16.7 passer rating when throwing at Robey-Coleman. That’s the best in the league among corners.
Quincy Enunwa at Cardinals: In the two games Eric Decker (shoulder, I.R.) has missed, Enunwa has played 94.4 and 82.8 percent of the snaps, but his targets have actually gone down (7 and 6) after averaging 8.3 targets per game when Decker was in the lineup. Enunwa is still seeing solid volume and needs to be owned in all season-long formats, but he gets a stiff test Monday night. Shutdown CB Patrick Peterson is expected to shadow Brandon Marshall, but Enunwa is running 88.8 percent of his routes out of the slot minus Decker. He’ll have to deal with the Honey Badger slot CB Tyrann Mathieu much of the evening. Mathieu was beat by speedy, shifty Jeremy Kerley for a touchdown last week, but Enunwa is bigger and slower and poses a better matchup for physical, yet smaller, Mathieu. Mathieu was Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 cover corner last season.
Allen Hurns at Bears: After posting a 64-1,031-10 line on 99 targets last season, Hurns is on pace for 60-904-4 on 96 targets through four games. The touchdown number is the major difference. Hurns was a big-play threat in 2015 and at one point scored a touchdown in seven-straight games. He’s yet to top five catches or 75 yards in a single contest, and with Julius Thomas (elbow) set to return to the lineup, he’ll likely dip into Hurns’ looks with Hurns running more routes out of the slot in 2016. Allen Robinson will continue to get his, but Hurns and Thomas have been canceling each other out for the most part. The Bears’ bend-but-don’t-break defense is 11th in fantasy points allowed to receivers and 14th in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA.
Start of the Week: Delanie Walker vs. Browns: After struggling with a hamstring injury early in the season, Walker was removed from the injury report ahead of Week 5. He had his best game since getting hurt in Week 2, catching 5-of-8 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins. At 100 percent, Walker is staring down a dream spot with the Browns. Cleveland has been getting run over by tight ends, allowing the most catches for the most yards, second-most touchdowns, and most fantasy points to the position. Cleveland’s safety trio of Derrick Kindred, Jordan Poyer, and Ibraheim Campbell all have brutal coverage marks at Pro Football Focus, and ILBs Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis are near the bottom in coverage at their position. Not only are the Browns horrible against tight ends, Walker is easily the Titans’ best pass catcher. He’s led the team in targets the past two weeks, and the Titans will be way up in pace Sunday. Walker has overall TE1 upside.
Dennis Pitta at Giants: Pitta is third among all tight ends with 36 targets, but he’s mysteriously, maybe even coincidentally, yet to see a single pass come his way in the red zone. This is a guy who caught seven touchdowns in his last healthy season, so a progression to the mean is likely in order. The Ravens fired OC Marc Trestman after the Week 5 loss to the Redskins, promoting Marty Mornhinweg to play-calling duties. During Mornhinweg’s time as the Eagles’ OC as recently ago as 2012, they frequently used Brent Celek in the scoring areas. Pitta has the due factor working in his favor. The Giants were destroyed by tight ends last season. They surrendered a red-zone touchdown to Kyle Rudolph in Week 4, 4-56 to Jordan Reed in Week 3, eight targets to Coby Fleener in Week 2, and 9-66 on 14 targets to Jason Witten in Week 1. Pitta has a safe target floor at the very least. Look for the Ravens to attack more under Mornhinweg, as opposed to dinking and dunking. With Steve Smith Sr. (back) expected to miss Sunday, Pitta could see increased work.
Jimmy Graham vs. Falcons: Graham has made an incredible recovery from patellar tendon surgery. In the two games before the Week 5 bye, Graham hung 6-100-1 on the 49ers and 6-113-0 on the Jets. Now he’s had two weeks to rest his knee and back and comes back to face the Falcons’ pathetic tight-end defense. Only the Lions have given up more touchdowns to tight ends, and only Detroit and Cleveland has surrendered more fantasy points to the position. Atlanta has already surrendered four TE1 finishes. Graham has looked legitimately dominant of late. Among tight ends with at least 10 catches, Graham’s 16.6 YPR is second only to Chargers rookie Hunter Henry.
Zach Ertz at Redskins: Ertz proved to be snake oil last week against the Lions. After every tight end the Lions had faced Weeks 1-4 scored a touchdown against them, Ertz went out and laid an egg with a 3-37 line on a measly three targets. Carson Wentz spread the ball around so much that it made it difficult to get any of them going. The offense should be more concentrated this Sunday. The middle of the field is where the Redskins are vulnerable. Only the Browns and Cowboys have yielded more catches to tight ends than Washington. And Ertz ran a pass route on 32-of-52 snaps last week. In a Week 16 meeting with the Redskins last season, Ertz hung a 13-122 line on the board.
Dwayne Allen at Texans: Allen is coming off his best game of the season after going 6-50-1 against the Bears. He had to be absolutely perfect to accomplish it, catching every single one of his targets. That’s become about the ceiling for Allen. And now he gets arguably the toughest positional matchup on the board. The Texans have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, shutting down the likes of Kyle Rudolph, Zach Miller, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, and Delanie Walker. Houston has faced the toughest set of tight ends imaginable this early in the year, yet the Texans remain No. 1 in tight end defense DVOA.
Gary Barnidge at Titans: Barnidge has seen his targets rise each week, but this doesn’t appear to be a week to buy in. The Browns’ 18.25-point implied team total is the lowest of Week 6. And in a game that will likely be rather run-heavy, coach Hue Jackson figures to pound Isaiah Crowell as much as possible. In the passing game, Terrelle Pryor should be loosened up more after contending with shutdown CBs Josh Norman and Malcolm Butler the past two weeks. Tennessee doesn’t have a cornerback that can contain Pryor. He should be the Browns’ main source of air yards.
Martellus Bennett vs. Bengals: Bennett is coming off a week-winning Week 5 performance against the Browns that saw him catch three touchdowns from Tom Brady. Bennett is obviously one of the higher-upside tight ends on the board each week playing in this potent offense, but there’s no way we can expect anywhere close to a repeat of last week. While the Browns have allowed the most catches and yards and second-most touchdowns to tight ends, the Bengals have been on the opposite side of that. They’ve surrendered the second-fewest catches per game (2.6) to the position. Sunday feels more like a Julian Edelman or LeGarrette Blount game for the Patriots.